The United States said on Wednesday that it was waiting to build an “empowered” UN mission to Libya, frustrating France and Germany who say that the delay in approving in appointing an envoy undermines efforts to end the conflict.
The position of the UN delegate to Libya has been vacant for three months after former Lebanese culture minister, Ghassan Salame, resigned citing stress. Salame was appointed in 2017 following the departure of German diplomat Martin Kobler as the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General to Libya and head of UN Support Mission in Libya. Kobler’s predecessor, Spanish diplomat Bernardino Leon, who took office in 2014, was implicated in controversial leaked emails, indicating that he had secret negotiations with the UAE government, which led to him accepting a lucrative position of president of the Emirates Diplomatic Academy.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres proposed Ghana’s former foreign minister, Hanna Serwaa Tetteh, for the post weeks ago, but his request was declined.
The French and German delegates to the United Nations went public with their concerns on Monday, with Nicolas de Riviere stating: “It’s really urgent now. The situation in Libya is really bad.”
In turn, the German delegate Christoph Huisgen stressed the need to work on a political rather than military solution.
“By withholding the agreement to a proposal by the UN secretary general with regard to the special envoy, those responsible for it carry a very heavy responsibility,” Huisgen warned.
A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the United States sought to hold Libyan negotiations as soon as possible, but added: “We want an empowered UN mission capable of achieving this goal.”
“This needs urgent action to appoint a special UN envoy with senior diplomatic clout and personal standing to make this engagement meaningful,” said the State Department official.
He added that the envoy should “focus exceptionally on negotiations”.
Libya plunged into chaos in 2011 when an uprising backed by Western countries resulted in the overthrow of longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, who is supported by the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Russia, is fighting to overthrow the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA).
The Tripoli-based GNA, which has support from Turkey, has made significant gains in recent weeks, recapturing all of the capital Tripoli on Wednesday after violent battles with Haftar’s forces.